The new grand chief of Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) pledged to help the organization reconnect with the communities it represents.
Alvin Fiddler was acclaimed as NAN’s new grand chief Wednesday morning, during the annual Keewaywin Conference, which is being held at the Victoria Inn in Thunder Bay, Ont. NAN represents 49 First Nations in Treaty 9 and Treaty 5 in northern Ontario, a landmass covering two-thirds of the province.
Fiddler replaces Derek Fox, who was removed from office in May after being suspended over allegations he violated NAN’s code of conduct. No further information about the alleged violations has been released, and Fox’s removal came during an in-camera meeting.
Fiddler, who has previously held the positions of NAN grand chief and deputy chief, will serve out the remainder of the current term. The next grand chief will be elected next summer; on Wednesday, Fiddler said he hasn’t thought about whether he’ll seek re-election.
In any case, Fiddler’s upcoming year as grand chief will be a busy one.
He’s listed three priorities for the year:
- Restore the credibility of NAN with its chiefs.
- Revitalize NAN’s mandate.
- Reconnect with people living in the 49 NAN communities.
“We need to make an effort to go back and be with you at the community level — to sit with your workers, your elders, your youth, so that we can truly understand what it is that your communities may need, what your priorities are,” Fiddler said.
Fiddler said he’s already begun visiting communities in NAN territory and will make more trips in the coming weeks.
Speaking to media after his speech, Fiddler said he feels rested and ready, and credited his children with convincing him to put his name forward to be NAN’s new grand chief.
“We had some dinner conversations,” Fiddler said. “They’re actually the ones that really encouraged me to take this on back in the spring.”
He also expanded on his intention to restore NAN’s credibility.
“I did acknowledge some of the hits that NAN has taken over the last couple of years, and we can’t ignore that and pretend that didn’t happen,” he said. “We have to, as I was advised to do by the elders, to acknowledge what’s happened and to take appropriate steps to do the restoration and the healing and the mending that we need to do to restore relationships within NAN, and also relationships with external partners.”
There are some major issues facing NAN and its communities, Fiddler said.
“Whether it’s the nuclear waste dump, or the Métis claims in the NAN territory, or the Quebec Cree claims in our territory, or the ongoing issues with resource development,” he said after the speech. “There’s tremendous pressure on our communities to open up.
“I think that’s where NAN needs to step in and play that role to supporting our communities on those very important issues.”